In the early 60s while on tour and scheduled to perform in a "Jim Crow" establishment, Ray Charles did the unthinkable...he refused. Refusing to play for a segregated audience, Ray Charles got back onto his bus and drove away. Not into the sunset. He wasn't praised, he wasn't congratulated, he was persecuted.
Following his refusal to play, he was banned from the state of Georgia and was labeled "radical." The state of his birth, both physical birth and the birth of his musical talent, rejected him.
Friday night I went to the Pocatello opening of Ray. Alone with seven other individuals in the theater, I laughed, I cried, I cheered. I imagine those seven other people must have gone too because they loved Ray Charles. We were certainly not disappointed.
In the greatest role I've seen him play, Jamie Foxx did an unbelievable job of playing the greatest musician of all time. His quirks, his mannerisms...they were perfect. If Foxx doesn't earn an award and a great deal of prestige for this role I will be surprised. He was amazing!
As I sat there I began to realize that unless you walked in loving Ray Charles, you may not have walked out with a change of heart. The movie addressed his drug addiction. The movie addressed the immorality so present in the lives of musicians. But despite the reality of Ray's mistakes the movie also presented the poverty, oppression, and disability that plagued Ray Charles at a young age. His story is truly motivational.
Sitting there I thought a great deal about talent. My Ray Charles Philosophy kicked into high gear and I was hit with the reality of what great opportunity comes with talent. And behind that opportunity follows a great responsibility. Despite the adversity of his past, Ray Charles made his future surprisingly prestigious and successful. He made the choice to use his talent in a positive way, directly and indirectly affecting many people.
In 1979, Ray Charles was issued a formal apology from the congress of the state of Georgia and Ray's greatest hit "Georgia On My Mind" was proclaimed the state song. He was finally applauded for his impact on civil rights legislation and will forever be remembered for waling away instead of feeding in to and wrongly supporting segregation.